My Mother’s Cookbook
More Recipes from Relatives: Buddy’s Oatmeal Cookies, Nadine’s Buttermilk Waffles and Date Pudding, Marcia’s Marshmallow Frosting
It’s probably fair to say that my mother benefited from marrying into a family that had a healthy interest in food. A new bride moving into a home where her mother-in-law still lives can create a situation ripe for combat, but my Grandmother Cullison accepted the change with surprising ease. Perhaps she remembered how she’d felt over twenty-five years before when she came back to Iowa to marry her deceased sister’s husband, assuming responsibility for an established household that included her new husband, teenage stepson and two orphaned nephews.
Buddy, as my brothers and I called her, had been an elementary school teacher for some years in Boulder, Colorado. In the late 1800s, she was a woman on her own at a time when few women made their own living or enjoyed the independence that lifestyle offers. Just imagine the courage it took and the freedom she must have felt. Still single at thirty-five, she could hardly have anticipated the adjustments married life would demand of her.
But Buddy got right down to the business of birthing her own three children in the first seven years of her marriage. She fed a steady stream of her husband’s colleagues who came from nearby towns by horse or train to attend to legal business at the courthouse. They needed a hearty noon-time meal, and Buddy’s table offered just that.
She may have welcomed retirement from her housewifely duties after Grandfather Cullison died in 1925. Two years later, my father managed to charm my mother into marriage a mere five months after they met. The arrival of his new bride gave his mother, then 61, the opportunity to regain some of her lost independence. A woman of artistic temperament, she must have relished having more free time to pursue those interests.
My mother particularly liked Buddy’s recipe for oatmeal cookies. These soft cookies were a staple of my childhood. Mom probably appreciated their old-fashioned quality, but mixing water with baking soda was an outdated method that she didn’t choose to follow (see her notes}.
Buddy’s Oatmeal Cookies
1 cup butter or margarine
1 teaspoon baking soda mixed with 1 cup water
3 cups old-fashioned oat meal
2 cups flour
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon cinnamon
½ teaspoon cloves
½ teaspoon allspice
1 cup raisins
1 cup chopped walnuts
Cream butter or margarine with sugar; then add eggs and the remaining ingredients. Drop spoonfuls of batter on greased baking sheet. Bake at 350 degrees until browned.
Mom’s Note: I add the soda to dry ingredients; makes a large batch. Black walnut meats are best!
Buddy came from a loving, close-knit family, and she embraced her new family in the same way. A picture of her father, a carpenter, shows a kindly face with full white beard and soft eyes. He would have made a perfect Santa Claus.
Our grandmother made extended visits to her daughters’ homes in her later years and corresponded by letter with them when at home. Some of their letters to her still remain in a battered tin box in the family home. She and her daughters referred to it as the treasure box. That’s an apt name because it also contains Buddy’s efforts at writing fiction and poetry. She often played her old upright piano and crocheted the same doily pattern into placemats and other household items. All these activities became more difficult as she aged because of the “rheumatism,” as she called it, in her fingers.
The oldest daughter, Gatsie, whose name Buddy made up to honor her maiden name of Gates, chose a career teaching in the Chicago public schools. She wasn’t so interested in cooking but spent her free time reading. Gatsie taught high school French and English, the two subjects I concentrated on in college, interests nurtured by her. I always felt close to Aunt Gatsie, and she liked to tell how I, as a small child, would crawl into bed with her each morning when she came home to visit.
Nadine, the younger daughter, inherited her mother’s proficiency in the kitchen. Mom included several of Nadine’s recipes in her cookbook, and we always knew we’d have good meals when we visited her home in Baltimore. Her recipe for waffles rivaled, in family preference, the one from Mom’s college home economics file. In this version, pastry flour makes a delicately light batter, and the buttermilk gives a nice tang.
¼ cup melted butter
1½ cups pastry flour
½ teaspoon baking powder
¼ teaspoon salt
1 tablespoon sugar
½ teaspoon baking soda
1 cup buttermilk
1/3 cup water
Mix together all ingredients except water, combining with as few strokes as possible. Add water gradually until you get the right consistency for waffle batter. Bake in traditional waffle iron.
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